June 01, 1997

The Soup of the Russian Nobility

Although it may come as a surprise to some, Russia is not all about long cold winters. In fact, in the summer, when the mercury rises above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), you may find yourself craving a cold shower and an icy drink.

Russians love to eat soup and are unwilling to give up this habit just because of a few hot days. However, in the heat, a bowl of steaming shcham or boiling borsch is unlikely to whet the appetite. So, to replace these culinary masterpieces, a suitable summer substitute had to be found – cold soups, of which there are a great many in Russia. Okroshka, (made with kvas and vegetables), svekolnik (made with beets), botvinia (made with fish, pot-herbs, and kvas), and kholodnik, to name just a few, have been prepared in Russia since time immemorial. As we have already given you the recipe for  the most famous soup of all, okroshka, it is time now to talk about svekolnik.

Svekolnik is an aristocratic soup with a delicate flavor and a very pleasant appearance. It is no wonder then that it appeared on the tables of the upper crust before the October Revolution. The tsar was no exception, and we know that Nicholas II and his family enjoyed this soup as a regular part of their summer diet. Svekolnik was also served in expensive restaurants, where it vied with sophisticated French consomm≈e and rokshfor. It was also presented to foreign visitors as a Russian delicacy.

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